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DHSS Press Release

Molly Magarik, Secretary
Jen Brestel, Director of Communications  

DPH Media Contact:
Tim Turane

Date: February 9, 2023


NEW CASTLE (Feb. 8, 2023) - Divisions from the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) and the Department of Services for Children, Youth & Their Families (DSCYF) are working together to prevent opioid abuse among young athletes by funding innovative prevention programs in the community.

The Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH) and the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services (DPBHS) are helping local athletic groups provide programs that include evidence-based curriculum to help prevent opioid use by youth. Funded by a federal grant in response to the state's opioid epidemic, the project includes the Delaware Ducks football team, Duffy's Hope basketball league, and Slingshot Family Services' lacrosse team.

Delaware continues to struggle with opioid overdoses. In 2021, the Delaware Division of Forensic Science reported 515 overdose deaths in Delaware, an increase of almost 19.5% over the last three years. Of the 515 total deaths in 2021, 420 (81%) involved fentanyl, a synthetic pain reliever that is 50-100 times more potent than morphine.

"Providing preventative education is important in this fight against Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) and focusing on teen athletes who may be exposed to opioids due to injury is another way we're trying to lower the public's risk," said DSAMH Director Joanna Champney.

DSAMH, a division of the Department of Health and Social Services, has been able to provide funding for these and other programs through the State Opioid Response (SOR) Initiative. The overall goals for SOR in Delaware include decreasing opioid overdoses statewide, improving understanding of and engagement and retention in OUD/SUD treatment and identifying and engaging high-risk populations in treatment.

The Ducks football program is year-round and geared toward middle school aged boys. Federal grants administered by DSAMH and DPBHS are funding the football team's use of an evidence-based curriculum called SPORT. The curriculum presents information to the players, coaches and parents about the dangers of drug use and includes a parental component that requires 100% participation. During the summer, the Ducks hosted a mini conference for their participants and families. Approximately 400 youth and 100 coaches and caregivers participated in prevention and educational activities on the consequences of opioid and/or stimulant misuse.

Slingshot Family Services, which is bringing lacrosse to youth in Wilmington, and Duffy's Hope high school basketball league in Glasgow and Wilmington, are also participating in the initiative using the SPORT curriculum. The goal is to promote physical activity and sports, combined with wellness focused activities that increase positive behaviors around stress management, nutrition, sleep and other areas. This lowers teens' risk for addiction.

"Unfortunately, student athletes may be at an elevated risk of substance misuse due to injury, intense pressure to perform, anxiety and the belief that drugs may enhance their performance," said Shelly Lazorchak, Director of Prevention Services for the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services, part of the Department of Services for Children, Youth & Their Families (DSCYF). "It is critical for the adults around them to understand the impact of substances on a youth's developing brain and encourage them to delay first use of substances as long as possible."

The Ducks have also partnered for the last two years with aTAcK addiction, an organization that provides educational presentations on strategies to eliminate drug addiction.

"The players have been attentive and expressed interest and concern regarding this problem," said Don Keister, a board member of aTAcK addiction. "The coaches have been supportive, reinforcing the importance of resisting the use of alcohol, marijuana and other drugs. I commend the work in helping these student athletes realize the dangers associated with experimentation at their young age."

Ninety percent of Americans with a substance use disorder used their first substance prior to age 18. Adults should educate themselves on the risk factors facing youth and promote health and wellness. By engaging them in prevention education while continuing to encourage their participation in healthy activities, such as sports, it creates a win-win environment.

Are you a coach or athletic director in Delaware interested in partnering with DSCYF to offer preventative education and activities to your youth team or club? Contact Shelly Lazorchak at

If you or someone you care about is struggling with substance use, call the Delaware Hope Line at 1-833-9-HOPEDE for information and resources or visit

For youth mental health resources, call the 24/7 Child Crisis Hotline (Mobile Response and Stabilization Services) at 1-800-969-HELP (4357). You can also contact the Prevention helpline at 302-633-2680 or (learn about free services for substance use, trauma, mental health, stress relief, healthy relationships, caregiver support and more).

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.